My Next Mac

The new Mac Pros are finally available to order. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but I think this is what I’m going to get:

  • One 3.33GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon “Westmere”
  • 3GB (3x1GB)
  • 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s hard drive
  • ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB
  • One 18x SuperDrive
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard (French) & User’s Guide

Total cost is $3,719.00 before taxes and discounts.

I will simultaneously order 12GB of third party RAM, about another $579. Anyone want to buy some 1 GB modules?

I will get a 3rd party SSD drive. Probably 120 GB for about $330. I could get a larger SSD, but 120 GB should be enough to hold my system (23 GB), apps (32 GB), and much of my home directory (about 100 GB after clearing out music, photos, videos, and VM images). That’s still a little cramped. I could perhaps splurge for a 240 GB SSD, but it’s probably better to get a smaller one now and upgrade when prices drop. Maybe I should get only a 60 GB and just use it for system and apps.

I also plan to buy a couple of 2 TB SATA hard drives and configure them as RAID 0. That will cost about $250. I could skip that up front to save a few bucks, but it’s by far the cheapest part of this system.I may eventually add an eSata card for external disks too, but first I’ll fill all my drive bays.

I don’t really need a new keyboard–I have more of those than I know what to do with–but since Apple won’t sell me a Mac without one, I figure I’ll grab a French keyboard for the hell of it so I can type all my é’s and ç’s. At least Apple doesn’t make me buy a monitor (unlike Dell). Nor do I need a mouse. I wish Apple would let me select a Magic Trackpad instead of a mouse, but they only allow me to add it in addition to the mouse.

What I want from this system, that my current MacBook can’t handle, is three-fold:

  • A responsive Lightroom with little to no waiting. I want switching between images to be as fast as flipping pages in Word.
  • Acceptable Windows performance in Parallels or VMWare so I can turn off my PC for good. It needs to be at least good enough for games and Dragon NaturallySpeaking despite virtualization (at least until Dragon for the Mac is released.)
  • Acceptable Warcraft performance. (Right now my MacBook clocks 3-9 FPS in WoW. My cheap Dell turns in 60 FPS at maximum settings.)

Give me that I should be happy for another four years (with probably a RAM or hard drive upgrade along the way). By the time I’m ready to replace this system, I expect all these requirements will be adequately served by a cheap laptop. :-)

I thought seriously about buying a tricked out MacBook Pro instead, but I’m not confident it could satisfy these requirements. I can wait another generation or two before replacing my MacBook, especially if I’m no longer using it as my primary day-to-day system.

I also considered the 27″ iMac, but I like the expandability and easy upgradability of the Mac Pro. Since the iMac is not easily user-upgradeable I’d have to buy all the RAM and hard drive I wanted up front at Apple’s inflated prices. That pushes its price into the same realm as the Mac Pro but with less sheer horsepower. Not a good deal unless I want the integrated screen.

I could save $800 by getting a four-core 3.2 GHz Nehalem instead, or $1200 for a four-core 2.8 GHz Nehalem. I have always been one to buy near the top of the line and then run the system for many years. My last PowerMac G5 lasted from maybe 2003 through 2008. But will the extra two cores make any difference for these apps? I could be paying for performance way past the maximum any of these apps can use. On the other hand, I’d rather overprovision the raw CPU speed than underprovision it. But 3.2 GHz is pretty close to 3.33 GHz, and not many apps will use 6 cores. Maybe 3.2 GHz is the way to go?

3 Responses to “My Next Mac”

  1. Dolan Halbrook Says:

    You don’t need to buy Apple’s RAM for the iMac — the slots are (very) user accessible. However, getting it over 8GB gets quite expensive simply due to the cost of >4GB SO-DIMMs.

  2. verisimilidude Says:

    What irks me is that not only will Apple not sell you a system w/o including a mouse and a keyboard, but if you are upgrading from a previous desktop system they insist that you by a complete new case. You can’t just get a new mother board and power supply to swap into your current case. But the case hasn’t changed since the PowerPC days.

  3. verisimilidude Says:

    Oops – that’s “buy”, not “by” in my previous post.

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